Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) is known as the father of social psychology. His thinking gave rise to so many processes we take for granted today such as action research, change process theory and sensitivity training. He coined the term ‘group dynamics’, did ground-breaking work in analysing organisational culture and gave us the psychological equation B = ƒ(P, E), meaning that human behaviour is a function of the person in their environment. That seems obvious now, but it took Lewin to make it clear.

Perhaps the most useful thing Lewin came up with for mentoring is his ‘Force Field Analysis’, a tool that I use all the time in mentoring sessions in an informal, unstructured way and occasionally as a formal exercise. The FFA provides a framework for identifying the factors that influence a situation:

    • factors that drive movement toward a goal – ‘helping forces’
    • factors that block movement toward a goal – ‘hindering forces’

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Applying Theory

By Rick Lewis

One thing we are never short of in today’s world is information. Yet although many of us suffer from information overload our appetite for more and more content seems insatiable. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of consuming endless information without it doing us any good.

Mentoring can contribute something tremendously valuable here. Conversations with a mentor are an opportunity to do a mental stocktake and ask questions like

    • What information, theories and ideas have we got in our heads?
    • What’s it worth?
    • What are we going to do with it?

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Pressures Faced by Christian Leaders

By Rick Lewis

Leadership in any field of endeavour brings pressure. However, leadership in the context of Christian organisations – and in being a leader for Christ in a secular organisational context – carries with it a peculiar set of stressors especially in respect of demands, limitations, rewards, trauma, relationships and idealisation. Mentors need a detailed understanding of these aspects of context in order to help Christian leaders build effective and relevant strategies for resilience and sustainability. I have posted elsewhere about those strategies; this post is about understanding context.

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Facilitating Change

By Rick Lewis

I am firmly convinced that Christian mentoring necessarily involves helping a person consciously, deliberately and freely move from their present state of affairs to what, in God’s eyes, is a better state of affairs. That, in turn, necessarily involves the person having a clear idea of where they are, where God is calling them to be, and developing a desire to make the move forward.

But what about when a mentoree sets out on that journey to where they believe God is calling them to be and the process of change falls over? How can a mentor help to discern what is going on and why things are not progressing as first imagined? How can a mentor be a facilitator of positive change?

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Mentoring in Groups and Between Peers: Alternatives to the One-to-One Mentoring Model

by Rick Lewis.   

Where experienced, competent mentors are hard to find, a group-mentoring model may be attractive. Compared with a one-to-one approach, groups for mentoring among peers have both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • a greater number of perspectives are available;
  • a greater variety of ideas may be generated;
  • members experience strong accountability due to peer pressure;
  • a sense of commonality such that one does not need to explain everything.

Disadvantages:

  • Less time available for each person to share;
  • greater potential for breach of trust;
  • conversations tend toward generic topics that all understand;
  • meeting together requires more complicated scheduling.

Peer mentoring groups require strong values in order to remain healthy: honesty, suspension of judgement, activation of discernment, confidentiality and intentionality. You may wish to consider other values that you would find essential, and whether or not a group would need a facilitator in order to stay true to these values and to stay on track in terms of focus and time. These groups may adopt one or more of several approaches, sticking with one that works best for them, or mixing things up over time:

  • Group supervision process, taking it in turn to present a case study arising from their experience of living as a disciple of Jesus. This may take the form of a theological reflection on a critical incident. Other members of the group then ask questions and make observations about how God is active in the life of the person sharing and may help generate options for how the individual can respond and grow.
  • Wesleyan approach, considering a standard set of accountability questions at each meeting. As a variation, each meeting may address a limited number of accountability questions drawn from a longer list in order to facilitate deeper exploration of the issues.
  • Retreating together, taking an extended time to withdraw from normal life patterns in order to listen to God attentively in community. A retreat setting can serve as a time for sharing life stories. Reese and Loane have a suggested format for such retreats[1].

Mallison outlines several different applications for mentoring in the life of a church. For one of these he draws on the example of Rod Denton[2] whose practice, as a pastoral team leader, involved mentoring members of his staff as a group. Compare this with the observations Lewis makes in chapters 5 and 7 of Mentoring Matters[3] about the operation of power within mentoring relationships.

A link to a PDF version of this article – Anamcara Consulting


[1] Reese, Randy and Loane, Robert. Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey. Downers Grove, IVP, 2012, p. 170-171

[2] Mallison, John. Mentoring: To Develop Disciples and Leaders. Adelaide: Openbook/Lidcombe: Scripture Union, 1998, p. 156f

[3] Lewis, Rick. Mentoring Matters: Building Strong Leaders, Avoiding Burnout, Reaching the Finishing Line. Oxford, Monarch, 2009, p. 129-132 and 178-180.